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French voters urge ex-minister Taubira to join left-wing presidential primary

© Kenzo Tribouillard, AFP | Archival picture shows former French justice minister Christiane Taubira

Text by Aude MAZOUE

Latest update : 2016-12-01

An online petition urging former justice minister Christiane Taubira to join France’s upcoming left-wing presidential primary has gained tens of thousands of signatures, amid fears the ruling Socialist Party is headed for an election drubbing.

The petition had garnered around 68,000 signatures on the website Change.org by Thursday evening, one week after it was first put online.

Taubira, 64, served as President François Hollande’s justice minister for four years. During that time she championed the country’s gay marriage law, earning both praise from gay rights advocates and scorn from conservative quarters.

She stepped down in January over a growing rift with Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls, in particular over proposed measures to strip French citizens involved in terrorist acts of their nationality.

Now, with Hollande and Valls’ popularity floundering less than five months before presidential elections, many think Taubira is the left’s only way to bounce back.

“Help! The entire Left is counting on you Mrs. Taubira!” pleads the petition’s author, Frans Torreele, urging her to join the two-round presidential primary set for January 22 and 29.

“After the disappointment left by Hollande, and faced with the rise of the populist right and the far right, who better than you to represent a combative Left, a visionary Left, a united Left? Help us!” Torreele adds.

Hollande in trouble

But will the online appeal be enough to convince Taubira to throw her hat into the ring? The deadline for joining the left-wing primary is December 15, and so far the French Guyanese politician has given few indications she is willing to run for office.

During an appearance on the popular French talk show Quotidien, she even expressed reservations about joining what already appears like a crowded race.

“I am not to be blamed for the current confusion,” she told host Yann Barthès in reference to the suspense surrounding her potential candidacy. “I see that on the left, there are already quite a few people.”

The petition is not the first attempt to nudge Taubira towards the starting gate.

The book “A President Should Not Say That” – in which Hollande managed to offend Muslims, immigrants and football players alike – sent political allies into damage-control mode and sank his job approval rating even further.

In the wake of the book’s publication in October several leading Socialists asked Taubira for meetings to discuss her return to the political arena. National Assembly speaker Claude Bartolone is among those who has pledged to endorse Taubira if she decides to join the primary.

Looking for a hero

Openly liberal French humorist Christophe Alévêque has also called on Taubira to run for the country’s highest office on television and in an opinion piece in the left-leaning daily Libération.

“Christiane Taubira is our only hope. She is the only figure capable of uniting all the left-wing parties, the only one who can inject fresh momentum,” he wrote on November 26. “She is the only person whose career, identity and political struggles can unite this country, a country looking for answers and that has a tendency to turn against itself.”

Taubira has in the past declared that she would not run an election against Hollande. Indeed, she could be waiting for her former boss to decide if he will seek a second term.

Hollande ruled himself out of running for re-election on Thursday, thus leaving the path open to Valls. It could be the sign Taubira has been waiting for.

Date created : 2016-12-01

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